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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Defeating Hamas

Jeffrey Goldberg writes a very interesting op-ed in the New York Times today, proving the utter inability of Hamas to ever moderate: (h/t Daily Alert and EBoZ)
In the summer of 2006, Nizar Rayyan, a member of the Hamas ruling elite and an unblushing executioner, who was killed two weeks ago, told this journalist, "First we must deal with the Muslims who speak of a peace process and then we will deal with you." As the Gaza war moves to a cease-fire, a crucial question will inevitably arise: Should Israel (and by extension, the U.S.) try to engage Hamas? But the question is unmoored from certain political and theological realities.

Advocates of negotiation suggest that the hostility toward Jews expressed by Hamas is somehow mutable. But in years of listening, I haven't heard much to suggest that its anti-Semitism is insincere. Like Hizbullah, Hamas believes that God is opposed to a Jewish state in Palestine. I asked Rayyan: Could you agree to anything more than a tactical cease-fire with Israel? I felt slightly ridiculous asking: A man who believes that God every now and again transforms Jews into pigs and apes might not be the most obvious candidate for peace talks at Camp David. Rayyan answered that a long-term cease-fire would be unnecessary, because it will not take long for the forces of Islam to eradicate Israel.
The article is quite good until the conclusion:
There is a fixed idea among some Israeli leaders that Hamas can be bombed into moderation. This is a false and dangerous notion. It is true that Hamas can be deterred militarily for a time, but tanks cannot defeat deeply felt belief.

The reverse is also true: Hamas cannot be cajoled into moderation. Neither position credits Hamas with sincerity, or seriousness.
Goldberg, who is quite knowledgeable on facts, allows his biases to cloud his analysis.

He is engaging in a straw-man argument when he says that some Israelis think that militarily defeating Hamas will somehow moderate the group. No one thinks that Hamas members will suddenly accept Israel; their very existence is founded on the idea of destroying Israel. Goldberg simply doesn't see the true argument for bombing Hamas:

Defeating militarily Hamas would make them irrelevant in the Arab world.

People in general naturally gravitate towards the perceived "winner" in any confrontation. And Arabs tend to associate military might with winning (as opposed to, for example, human rights records or economic power.)

In 2001, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Arab world as a whole embraced Al Qaeda. Al Jazeera put his heroic silhouette on its backdrop of news stories, Arabs throughout the world cheered the attacks, and Arab pride was at the highest it had been since Saladin. Arabs and Muslims voluntarily went to Afghanistan to fight the weak, shamed Westerners.

Today, al-Qaeda is more of an embarrassment. Sure, there are still many Arabs who are ideologically aligned with Al Qaeda's goals, but they have been muted in the mainstream Arab world, and publicly looked down upon. No one volunteers to fight with the mujahadeen nowadays. The reason is because a much more powerful force came in and turned the impression of Al Qaeda from a seemingly invincible and brilliant force into a small group of people who spend more time hiding in caves than attacking the hated West.

As much as the Arab world continues to hate the United States and its allies, they respect and fear them much more now than they did in 2001. Al Qaeda no longer represents the ideal for average Arabs that it did then.

In the Arab world, raw power is the path to respect.

Goldgerg's argument would imply that Al Qaeda is winning because its leaders have not moderated.

Hamas is the same as Al Qaeda. The ideology, methods and goals are identical. And the path to victory is the same as well - a combination of raw power and the resultant "peer pressure" that makes the Arab world turn against them.

Hamas will never be pragmatic, but ordinary Arabs are. They know that aligning with the winning side is smarter than the alternative. Pragmatism as an Arab philosophy is not as attractive as the idea of an ascendant Islamic ummah taking on and defeating the world, but it is a good bit better than being looked upon as a defeated, shamed people. The very name "Hamas" needs to evoke embarrassment when heard by Arabs.

That is how to win.